Quickly after leaving Agadir, the clattering of motorbikes and horn-honking fades, the panorama flattens and the Atlantic ocean fills the horizon.
After which it seems — a supersized curve of golden sand between the Atlases and the Atlantic. Taghazout Bay, some 15 miles north of Agadir, began life as a fishing village after which within the Sixties travellers tracing Morocco’s leg of Africa’s hippie path — which related cities corresponding to Tangier and Essaouira (beloved by Jimi Hendrix) —paused right here to soul-search and surf.
The hippies are (largely) gone, however the ambiance stays. Folks nonetheless come for the surf fairly than the souks, and to hike the decrease Atlas Mountains.
Bay of lots: Solar-soaked Taghazout, which Tamara describes as ‘a supersized curve of golden sand’
A fisherman exhibits off his catch on the seashore in Taghazout. The bay began life as a fishing village
The straightforward-going vibe extends to the bay’s flurry of latest inns, which seem dedicated to mixing in fairly than imprisoning visitors. My base, the Fairmont Taghazout Bay, opened in July. Its low-slung, sand-coloured buildings are squeezed between a freshly laid public seashore promenade and aloe plant-dotted slopes, which rise and fall earlier than angling sharply skywards in direction of the mountains.
Nods to Taghazout’s hippie roots stay, even right here. Within the lodge’s NOLA bar, there are plans for Gnawa gamers (Gnawa being the melodic, nearly blues-like music Morocco is thought for) to affix the resident jazz trio.
On the gin bar, out of doors seating is headily fragranced by beds of native herbs, together with sage and rosemary, alongside mint tea and date syrup, to flavour cocktails.
Spectacular landscapes are throughout. I stroll from the lodge via villages scattered throughout the slopes behind, the place low, rust-red buildings heave with so many hanging baskets that solely tiny patches of stonework peek via.
I escape the warmth by dipping right into a tiny retailer manned by a Berber tip-toeing his method round packing containers of oven-fresh khobz — Frisbee-shaped loaves of Moroccan bread.
As a mountain lover, it’s the hike via the decrease Atlases I’m most enthusiastic about. My information, Larbi, and I drive previous stalls promoting bunches of bananas and clay tagines, via olive tree-dotted canyons and tiny villages the place Berbers lead loaded donkeys alongside dusty tracks.
We start our hike to the whirr of crickets. The Decrease Atlas Mountains aren’t the tallest Atlases, however they’re the oldest. Fossils protrude from boulders lining the footpath, and pure divots carved out of the rock have crammed with glass-clear water and tiny fish. At one, an enterprising native has arrange a restaurant with semi-submerged seating, permitting clients to take pleasure in a fish pedicure whereas they eat.
Surfers ready for the following wave in Taghazout. The bay first turned in style with surfers within the Sixties, Tamara reveals
Many vacationers flock to the Taghazout Bay area to hike the Decrease Atlas mountains, pictured
As we press on, the swimming pools turn out to be bigger. We stumble throughout 4 Moroccans having fun with break day from their jobs within the Royal Moroccan Air Drive. In between swims, they provide me slices of their boulder-size watermelon and proudly present me their tagine, simmering over a makeshift fireplace.
Later, close to a squat farmhouse, Larbi factors out the communal oven used to warmth slabs of bread slid into the flames on wood paddles.
We cease for lunch within the shade of one of many century-old argan bushes which stud the panorama. Larbi explains that each one argan oil comes from Morocco (a serious revelation for somebody who’s slathered the stuff on to her hair for years) and factors out the gorgeous mottled bark, earlier than giving me an etiquette masterclass as he pours Moroccan tea into cups.
He tells me that even when the basket of khobz is by my aspect, I ought to by no means assist myself, however wait till it’s handed to me.
The subsequent day Larbi takes me for a unique tour. Simply exterior Agadir, we cross Anza Seashore, guarded by an unlimited dinosaur statue — a nod to the fossilised dinosaur footprints discovered on the sand.
Tamara says Agadir, pictured, is ‘a contemporary, noisy metropolis rammed in opposition to an extended curve of crowded golden sand’
A vibrant market in Agadir, which is a few 15 miles south of Taghazout Bay
Moments later, we pause in a camel-filled automotive park above Agadir to take it in from above.
It’s a hive of building — a contemporary, noisy metropolis rammed in opposition to an extended curve of crowded golden sand. There are fewer historical monuments than in Marrakech or Fes, largely as a result of in 1960, most of Agadir was flattened by Morocco’s deadliest earthquake.
Right this moment, its foremost seashore is lined with sprawling inns, and the port is colourfully chaotic, with locals queuing to rent tiny boats, and oldsters nervously eyeing kids crumbling bread to throw at flailing fish beneath. Sometimes, a shiny golden carriage clatters previous — the Agadir equal of a Central Park horse-drawn coach trip.
I’m quickly craving the mild tempo of Taghazout Bay. The Fairmont has a small non-public seashore however it’s extra enjoyable to mingle with locals, so I pedal alongside the promenade, a easy, linear hive of exercise. Sand-blasted cafes nudge up in opposition to surf shacks and slick new seafood eating places, and on the sand a Berber leads a plodding camel between the parasols.
Sometimes, the promenade widens to accommodate open-air gyms for locals eager to flex their muscle tissues underneath the Moroccan solar.
When the promenade tapers out, I heave my bike on to the street and trip in direction of the headland, previous a surf store with a mosque-shaped brand. On the hilltop, I pause to absorb the view of golden seashores and sheer mountains. It dawns on me that on my return house, my favorite cycle route — a camel-free stretch of the Basingstoke canal — won’t appear fairly so particular any longer.
SOUKS, SKIING AND THE SILVER SCREEN…
- Simply 9 miles from Europe, Morocco, just like the UK, has a monarch (King Mohammed VI) and a Prime Minister. It’s about twice the scale of the UK.
- Each metropolis and village has its personal souk — open air markets promoting something from pots to rugs and spices. Two of essentially the most well-known are in Fes and Marrakech.
- The nation has a nice cinematic pedigree — Lawrence Of Arabia, The Man Who Would Be King, Gladiator and Inception have been all filmed there. Funnily sufficient, Casablanca was not.
- It could be extra well-known for its Saharan dunes, however you possibly can go snowboarding in Morocco on the Oukaimeden resort within the Atlas Mountains.
- In 1777, Morocco turned the primary nation on this planet to recognise the USA after it declared independence.